Chatbot technology clearly registers in the age of conversation

Angélique Gérard, head of the customer’s relations at Free, gives an interview over chatbot technology.


Can you trace your journey and the evolution of the DCR at Iliad / Free?


In a few words, being the Director of the Customer Relation since the end of 1999, I have ensured the development of the Group’s contact centers, the supervision of the growth of the staff of our 7 centers, including 5 in France, all certified AFNOR, which count 5,500 employees, representing 85% of the workforce of the ILIAD Group.

The Group’s contact centers were also reorganized around MCRA in 2011, a central control and management body that consolidates the competencies and resources of all Assistance systems.

With a corporate culture based on innovation, the Free Customer Relations Department has evolved a lot in terms of process, staffing and organization, but relies on essential values ​​that are essential to its development, such as choice of the inshore, the strong commitment in an internalized quality service (obtaining the Great Place to Work label in 2013, the NF Service AFNOR standard for our businesses since 2008 as well as many distinctions), the multichannel presence (doubled the existence of the ATP service, the famous Free Itinerant Technicians (850 since 2004), digitization and the training of our FreeHelpers teams.


Which are, for 5 years, the most significant evolutions in the Digital Customer Relationship?


Technology enables us to respond effectively to the needs of consumers, but above all to anticipate them.

It is the human evolution that ultimately marks the most in the digital race. We come back to more qualitative exchanges, users feel this need to return to true contact and interactions “live”, which is far from impossible, quite the contrary, with the digital and all the possibilities that technology offers us. For me, the future is synonymous with a digital human experience, hence our strong presence on social networks and the launch of smart services like Face to Free and LSF Visio Assistance for our deaf and hard of hearing users since 2011.


You launched the Visio Channel, do you see a strong adoption by users?


Face to Free is an additional contact channel that allows our subscribers to contact FreeHelpers on video in a mobile situation or from a computer in their home. This additional and free proximity link facilitates the visualization of technical manipulations and meets the current needs of users.


The success of this new tool developed internally was immediate, we knew from the beginning that its durability was assured. The service is surprising and loyal, its technical quality and its human dimension have already been highly acclaimed. He has also received the Palme of Customer / Citizen Experience from the French Association of Customer Relations (AFRC) in 2015, and it is planned to deploy this exceptional service in all of our centers.

Angélique Gérard declares: “Our support application has been downloaded more than 200,000 times and we are constantly scaling this service, as demand grows!”


Do you think chatbots and AI could significantly improve your customer journey?


Chatbot technology is clearly in the conversational age and many have bet on this technology with high growth potential, given the recent craze for instant messaging and live chat applications.

We have already been offering a conversational agent on the Help site since 2007 to guide the user and trace key information.

I think that for the marking of the first part of the customer journey / qualification needs / orientation, and simple interactions that do not require special handling (type of administrative tasks, payment of invoices, changes of subscription, simple information, etc.), it is interesting for a large part of the users that the brand is represented by a smart robot to obtain a simple, fast and personalized answer. Firstly, the AI ​​saves a lot of time, but also more clarity and transparency, and in that, this technology corresponds to the state of mind of Free. It is therefore important that simple requests are answered quickly and efficiently. We have been working on these aspects since 2010 and with the expected successes.

For all the rest, human interactions via digital technology or face-to-face are nevertheless unbeatable to exchange clearly and warmly with our subscribers on more complex technical issues and bring the dose of enchantment necessary to their satisfaction and loyalty .


Finally, what are the challenges that await you for 2017-2020?


With the development of Free and the pace at which we want to evolve the business of Customer Relations, my biggest challenge in the medium term will be to defend the values ​​of Management that I advocate, to achieve a symmetry of attention and to Enchantment, principles that drive teams and that are key to achieving the total satisfaction of our subscribers.

This requires a strong training policy for our management teams. The manager must know how to convey values ​​that demonstrate the exemplary nature of the management team and animate the spirit of service in his daily life.

The notion of enchantment via the “symmetry of attentions” is our priority since this project is part of the main development poles of Assistance services identified by the CRA (Customer Relation Branch) since 2015, the pole of Relational Excellence, which also includes the development of the concept of enchantment and the creation of a repository of Services and Management.

Angelique Gérard states: “We also want to continue our symmetry of equipment to improve our tools and we aim to make a large part directly available to our users.”